What would you do if you had only nine years to make a difference for God and the deck was stacked against you?
That’s what Queen Esther faced.
Five years after she married Xerxes, Esther eliminated the threat Haman posed to the Jews living in Persia. One might think life was smooth sailing after that, but history suggests otherwise. Nine years later, King Xerxes I was assassinated. His successor was not a son that Esther had birthed, but rather Artaxerxes I—Queen Vashti’s son.
A bit of backstory will put that into perspective.
Queen Vashti was the daughter of Belshazzar, who ruled Babylon when it fell to the Persians. (Remember his party and God’s handwriting on the wall?) Vashti was a child when she was promised to Xerxes. In Persia, as in other cultures, kings always married nobility. Esther, a Benjamite, was neither Persian nor of noble blood.
Can you imagine the rancor that Vashti’s son must have had for Esther?
Artaxerxes had his entire childhood to ponder how a Jewish orphan could have replaced his mother on the throne. And he likely didn’t meet his stepmother, Queen Esther, until he was a teenager.
You see, if Artaxerxes was kept in the palace citadel after Vashti’s banishment, he would have been sequestered as was customary for royal children. Persian royals didn’t even see their father until age five. For the next ten to fifteen years, the young princes were trained in horsemanship, archery, and hunting so they could become efficient warriors. At the same time, Persian Magi instructed them in justice/government, endurance/courage, self-restraint/sobriety, and religion.
Even as king, Artaxerxes could not bring his mother into the palace again (if Vashti was still alive)—because Persian law could not be rescinded.
One of Artaxerxes’s first acts as king was to kill his brother who allegedly had a role in Xerxes’s assassination. Unfortunately, a common way to ensure that one retained the throne was to kill everyone who could be a threat to it. That put Esther in Artaxerxes’s crosshairs. It would make sense for Artaxerxes to eliminate her and any children she had with Xerxes. In fact, history records that only Artaxerxes’s descendants became king.
To be clear, history is silent about Esther’s fate. But if history followed precedent, Esther may have been as young as twenty-eight when she died.
Regardless of how long she lived, the truth is that danger never left Esther.
She didn’t practice the official religion Artaxerxes decreed. She wasn’t the “queen mother.” How did she navigate a life she never would have chosen of her own will? Did she wonder if God was finished using her after her stand against Haman?
We may never be in a position like Esther’s, but we may wonder how and when God will use us. It may not be evident. In fact, we may think we’ve missed God’s plan if we can’t point to some deeply fulfilling way we’re serving Him through a church or parachurch ministry. But here’s the deal: God can put us in someone’s path for a brief time that will change the person’s life forever—with ripple effects we’ll never know this side of heaven. In God’s economy, that is just as significant as when Esther preserved Persia’s Jewish population.
That unsettles me. I desperately want to make a difference for God. Yet late-stage Lyme disease has imposed limitations on me that repeatedly frustrate my plans for serving Him.
God isn’t the least bit perturbed about that.
As others have said, God doesn’t require our ability—only our availability. He will use us when and how He sees fit. Sometimes our obedience and trust are all He wants from us.
That’s the acid test. Do you still trust God’s sovereignty when your circumstances don’t change—or get worse?
Maybe Esther’s life did have an effect on her stepson, Artaxerxes. In his seventh year of his reign, he commissioned Ezra (a Jewish scribe in his court) to reinstate biblical teaching and practices in Jerusalem. Twenty years into his reign, Artaxerxes authorized Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, helped finance the work, and appointed Nehemiah as governor of Judah.
May we learn to trust God the way Esther did!
Lord, thank You for always being with me. Your word tells me to be strong and courageous, even when circumstances threaten or pressure me into being less than you intend for me to be. Thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit to guide and protect me from lies, doubts, discouragement, or anything else that tries to keep me from Your path for me. Amen.
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Wayne Watson singing the forever powerful song “For Such a Time As This”